TEMPLE LODGE HISTORY
THE FIRST 100 YEARS
So well had the two "blue" lodges prospered in St, Catharines (St. George’s and Maple Leaf) that the W.M. and officers of St. George’s Lodge agreed to recommend the formation of a third lodge to be called "The Temple Lodge". As a result of this action, the first Minute Book of the new lodge has the following opening record: "The Regular meeting of Temple, U.D. held in the Masonic Hall, St Catharines on Wednesday, the 2nd day of April A.L. 5873 pursuant to summonses of W. Bro. L.S. Oille, W.M., U.D.
The Worshipful Master at the appointed time read the Dispensation from the M.W.G.M. authorizing him to hold meeting; and having complied with all requirements the Lodge was opened at 8 O’clock P.M.
The Worshipful Master was pleased to appoint the following Officers to serve in Temple Lodge;
W. Bro. Lauchlin Leitch
It was moved by W. Bro. Robert Matheson and seconded by W. Bro. Lauchlin Leitch and resolved: That Temple Lodge adopt the By-Laws of St. George’s Lodge No. 15 until such time as a code of By-Laws has been drafted and adopted for the government of Temple Lodge in their stead, with the following alterations and additions;
1st. - That the fee for initiation in Temple Lodge be fixed at $25.00.
2nd. - That the regular meeting of Temple Lodge be held on the first Wednesday of every month.
3rd - That the fee for affiliating members be fixed at $4.00
4th - That the Worshipful Master shall be the Trustee of Temple Lodge in the Masonic Association of St. Catharines.
5th - Any privileges with reference to dues enjoyed by joining members from other lodges shall be continued to them in Temple Lodge.
1. The Bro. Richard Ratcliffe be appointed Tyler of Temple Lodge and that his remuneration be at the rate of $1.00 for each night service.
2. That the Secretary be authorized to procure the necessary Book for Temple Lodge.
3. That the Committee of G.P. be directed to prepare a Code of By-Laws for Temple Lodge and to submit the same to the Lodge for consideration at their earliest convenience.
Petitions were received from 3 brethren for affiliation and from 7 citizens for initiation. These 10 petitions were referred to the C. of G.P. to be reported on at the next regular meeting. The Lodge was closed in Harmony at nine o'clock P.M."
From the beginning Temple Lodge found it necessary to watch finances very carefully. However there seems to have always been enough astute business men in the membership to keep a credit balance. So in 1880's when times were slow, we find them objecting to the rental charge by the board of Masonic Control. When a satisfactory agreement could not be reached, they left the Temple: and one regular meeting was held in United Workman's Hall. A reconciliation was reached. The rent was adjusted, and the brethren of Temple Lodge returned to their old quarters. In those days finances were indeed low, and when the W.M. sanctioned the funeral expenses of a deceased brother, the Lodge, while agreeing with the Master, asked that the brethren loan the amount to the W.M. till such time as the finances were adequate to repay them. Perhaps such experiences explain the fact Temple Lodge had a larger investment in the old building on Ontario Street than any other one of the participating Masonic Bodies. It may have been the reason also why Temple in 1947 objected so strenuously to the proposal to sell the old building at the low sale price of $15,000; and held out until 1953 when the offer was tripled to $45,000, and which they still thought too low.
By 1931 the number of lodges named "Temple" on the Ontario Register of Grand Lodge had increased so that Temple Lodge No. 324 of Hamilton sponsored a "Temple Night" at which Officers of each Temple Lodge in Ontario were invited to take part in conferring the degrees that evening. This became a very popular fraternal re-union; and the lodges each took turn in being the host lodge for the annual event. As time went on new items were added to the program - visiting brethren brought along their ladies who were shown the local points of greatest interest, and then were the guests at a full-course dinner in the evening. When W. Bro. H.C. Rymer was Master of Temple Lodge No. 296 in 1963, when St. Catharines was last the host lodge, there were 7 guest lodges - Hamilton No.324, - Toronto No. 525, - London No. 597, - Oshawa No. 649, - Ottawa No. 665, - Belleville No. 666, - and Kitchener No. 690.
Early in its existence Temple Lodge joined with its two sister lodges, St. George's and Maple Leaf to form a joint Board of Masonic Relief. This no doubt resulted finally in the purchase of a fine circular burial area, restricted to Masonic brethren, in Victoria Lawn Cemetery. It is located directly behind the Mausoleum in the original part of the cemetery. A few burials have been made there, but it would seem to be fitting to spend some funds in beautifying the whole area, Lot 1, Div. 1, Sect. K.
Being so close to the U.S. Border, it was possible to exchange fraternal visits with N.Y. Masonic Lodge. One Masonic group from Buffalo, "The Four Square Club", who had visited Temple Lodge frequently, invited the brethren to spend a Saturday afternoon at a Brother's estate at East Aurora. So popular did this outing prove that in future years 2 or 3 buses were required to transport the brethren. Needless to say they were always royally wined and dined!
Perhaps the outstanding annual event for Temple Lodge members is the June migration to Smithville to install the new Master-Elect and to invest his Officers. The origin of this custom dates back many years to the most active years, Masonically speaking, of our late brother R.W. Bro. Jos. Backus, who had very close brotherly relations with the members of Coronation Lodge. The annual installation ceremonies fell in the latter part of June, when the weather was extremely HOT and the rural members of Smithville Lodge were very busy on the farm. Being himself a farmer W. Bro. Backus, realizing the circumstances, agreed to conduct the ceremony. This brotherly gesture was so appreciated by the busy Smithville farmers that they not only feasted their visitors on strawberries and ice-cream but practically gave them the Key to the town. Thus this annual tradition has continued through the years!
After some 75 years of successful operation the membership of the Lodge had risen above the 400 mark: and some of the older brethren began to find the long climb up the several flights of stairs a bit too strenuous, it was apparently time for a more modern temple. So Temple Lodge was ready to join with her 4 sister lodges, the Chapter, and Perceptory in forming the Masonic Memorial Temple Association of St. Catharines. The Charter of Incorporation was received June 6th, 1947. The main purpose was stated to be "To provide a permanent and suitable building for the holding of Masonic meetings and other activities normally carried on in a Masonic temple which shall stand as a permanent memorial to all those Masons who gave their lives in the First World War 1914-1918, and the Second World War 1939-1945, in order that others may be free, and Masonic and other fraternal organizations may for all time function freely,"
Immediately a campaign for funds was started. When sufficient funds were available, a Building Committee was set up. Several sites were considered - one of which was the Protestant Orphans' Home on Ontario Street. An offer of $15,000 was made, but it was not accepted. Finally the old Court Street School was selected and purchased for $40,500 from the Board of Education. To give sufficient room an adjoining lot on Centre Street was bought for $8,500. The old building on Ontario Street was sold to R.M. Robertson for $45,000. A second fund-raising drive was carried on in 1953 successfully. Thomas Wiley was commissioned to prepare the plans and Moir Construction Co, secured at $102,564.
The ground floor of the new structure was designed for, and leased to, St. Catharines-Lincoln Health Unit. The second floor was the new commodious lodge room. The old school was remodeled to provide a banquet room, a small lodge room, and social rooms and kitchens. The most expensive item in furnishing the new temple was the beautiful golden carpet in Masonic design. As funds were becoming low, there was some hesitation re: making this additional expenditure, but the brethren felt this crowning touch must be added - and many who had already made three payments to the Building Fund agreed to make another so it could be. Their wisdom has been proven by the luster it has given our lodge room.
Through the years Temple Lodge attracted many of the leading fruit-growers from the agricultural area surrounding St. Catharines. Many of them became expert ritualists, as the nature of their occupation gave a good opportunity to concentrate an "The Work". One brother remarked that his team had been initiated, passed, and raised several times. He added, however, that he was 'suspect' in his neighbourhood as he had been noticed "talking to himself" a couple of times! This dedication to "The Work" led to a special occasion each year known as "Agricultural Night", when the chairs were occupied by expert agriculturalists. As there was overlapping in jurisdiction with Ivy Lodge, Seymour Lodge, and Grantham Lodge much interest was created in them, and their members often assisted in conferring the degrees. This helped develop a truly fraternal brotherhood in the area.
In the early decades of this century Temple Lodge was blessed with a loyal group of expert Past Masters. To show his appreciation of their assistance to him, one Ruling Master proposed near the end of the year, to hold a "Past Masters' Night", when the chairs would be occupied by them, and his Officers and the Members would watch a degree conferred as it should be! So successful was the plan that it became an annual event. Finally to set it apart from the ordinary meetings it was preceded by a dinner at 6:30 P.M., with the lodge being opened at 7:30 for degree work. This occasion is anticipated with keen interest and gives the Ruling Master, his Officers, and the 'side-benchers' an opportunity to express appreciation of the loyalty of the Past Masters. Perhaps the most colourful event of Temple Lodge's Masonic year is the annual 'At Home". Originally it was named "Ladies Night" and was an expression of appreciation to the wives of the Officers and Members for their patience and forbearance in making it possible for their men to devote a couple of nights each month to the work of the Lodge. It has grown to be quite a social affair commencing with an elaborate dinner - complete with guest speaker and traditional toasts - followed by an evening of dancing to the accompaniment of a popular dance orchestra. It was felt that the most appropriate time for such an occasion was on or near St. Valentine's Day - so the middle of February is anticipated by all who enjoy dancing.
THE NEXT 25 YEARS
In terms of historical events the last 25 years of Temple Lodge have been rather uneventful. Though uneventful, the years have been rich to those who have participated and taken interest in the Lodge activities. Many of the faces have changed and a few have not, but the officers have always been a close knit group, supported by many past masters and a few die hard 'side benchers' who made sure the Lodge was always successful.
In 1973 as part of the 100th Anniversary Celebrations a new set of regalia was dedicated by R.W. Bro. Charles Sanky, member of the board of general purposes, and the old regalia was donated to National Lodge No. 588 in Caperol, Ontario. In 1978 new altar and pedestal covers were purchased and dedicated from the centennial fund. In 1979 the bible was purchased and dedicated by R.W. Bro. Alex Crawford.
The Lodge has had 2 D.D.G.M'S invested in the past 25 years, R.W. Bro. James Pollard in 1978 and R.W. Bro. Tim Pedwell in 1993. R.W. Bro. Pollard has served Temple Lodge extensively since 1978 spending many years as secretary. We are sure that R.W. Bro. Tim Pedwell will continue his dedication to the best interests of the lodge. There were also a number of our members who have had Grand Lodge honours as Grand Stewards. V.W. Bro. G. Harrison, 1973, V.W. Bro. J. Fleck, 1979, V.W. Bro. C. Jago, 1986, V.W. Bro. M. Friesen, 1994.
Through the years many 25, 50, and 60 year pins have been given to our senior Lodge members, but on Nov. 19, 1980 a 60 year pin was presented to Bro. Charles Ernest Ireland who traveled from Los Angeles to receive it.
There have been a number of projects to raise money for various causes
among the brethren. Some of the causes included project help (hearing
for every living person) project home (lodge building at Black Creek
pioneer village) and help nip drugs in the bud.
Lodge still holds many regular functions such as yearly visitations back
and forth with Ivy Lodge No.115, our yearly Temple Lodge reunion's, Past
Master's night, Christmas functions; special nights to honour certain
brethren, R.W. Bro. Jim Pollard and the presentation of the William
Mercer Wilson medal to Bro. Barney Tucker to name some; the annual
summer picnic first held in 1986 by W. Bro. Don Wiley, many education
nights, talks on various subjects of Masonic interest, and a weekend
THE 21st CENTURY
THE FIRST DECADE
Donald R. Sturgeon, Historian